Southern Miss wins the 2023 Sun Belt Championship

MONTGOMERY, AL – Southern Miss powered their way to win the 2023 Sun Belt Championship with three home runs and the stellar pitching of Justin Storm. The Golden Eagles fought through adversity but came through at the end with a complete game in the championship game.

“Extremely proud of our team of how they were able to come out after a long day yesterday against a really hot, and well played team. They [Louisiana] had the same scenario as us yesterday, they had to come back and win their game two to get to today. Both team were tired, but our team had of that punch in them.” Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry said.

The Golden Eagles win the Sun Belt title in their first year in the conference, the first Southern Miss athletic program to do so. Men’s basketball won the regular season championship but not the tournament title.

Southern Miss dogpiles after winning the 2023 Sun Belt Championship (Dima Mixon)

Southern Miss was picked first to win the Sun Belt at the beginning of the season, and they fell just short of the regular season title by one game but did not fall short here.

“It’s outstanding. That’s what we like the expectation to be at Southern Miss baseball, that’s the way its been here for a while…I wanted the new guys to know that this is not just something that happened. This happens for a reason, the hard that we put in and the commitment that our guys that they do in their week. Everybody that invests in this program invests in this opportunity that we made for ourself to cash in and win another championship.” Berry said.

Like yesterday vs. App State, Southern Miss jumped out in front of Louisiana early. Dustin Dickerson blasted a ball for his sixth home run of the season to left field in the third to give the Golden Eagles an early 1-0 lead. Southern Miss pitcher Niko Mazza was in control until the fourth inning.

He left the ball to Justin Storm, who inherited runners at the corners. In an almost de ja vu moment to last year in the Hattiesburg Regional against LSU, Justin Storm pitched the rest of the game, throwing a beautiful 5.2 IP of three-hit ball. Last season, in a do-or-die situation last season, Storm came in and shut down the Tiger’s lineup.

Justin Storm, after downing Louisiana in order in the sixth (Dima Mixon)

Today, Storm shut down the Ragin Cajun’s lineup, not allowing a run and opening the door for the Golden Eagle bats to get going.

“We knew it was going to be tough, and it definitely was. They didn’t give up over there, but we always talk about landing the final blow and we did today. It’s a good feeling to celebrate and dog pile no matter what level that’s at.” Storm said.

The fact that Southern Miss could pitch the entire tournament using just a couple of arms and having some guys step up in critical moments is so encouraging for this team headed into the NCAA tournament. Will Armistead last night and now Storm today show that the questions at pitching are answered going into the regionals. Especially now that they have shown it can be done in a regional-like tournament.

As for the offense, it collected double-digit hits for the fourth time in the five games they have played. After Dickerson’s home run, Louisiana took the lead in the top of the fourth on some back-to-back hits.

Danny Lynch tied it up in the bottom half of the fourth with a solo home run to right field. He did a nice little bat flip as the Lynch vs. Louisiana social media war continues.

Danny Lynch, 26, after his solo home run (Dima Mixon)

After Lynch’s home run, Dickerson added another RBI to his column with an RBI single in the fifth to give the Golden Eagles the lead for good.

“Danny told me before the game you know your class has never won a conference championship, let’s go win this thing.” Dickerson said.

Southern Miss had not won a conference championship since 2019.

Slade Wilks gave Southern Miss some insurance in the bottom of the seventh when he knocked his 20th home run of the season, scoring two to go up 5-2. Blake Johnson added one more in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI double to make the score 6-2.

Four Golden Eagles made the all-tournament team. Tanner Hall was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. First baseman Christopher Sargent, third baseman Danny Lynch and shortstop Dustin Dickerson were all awarded all-tournament team honors.

Southern Miss now looks ahead to the NCAA tournament, where they await their fate at the hands of the committee where they will go or if they will be hosting a Hattiesburg Regional for the second year in a row.